Whiplash injury is a neck strain usually associated with car accidents. It occurs when the person’s head moves backward and then forward rapidly and forcefully. Therefore, it is known as cervical acceleration-deceleration syndrome (1).
Whiplash causes also include headbanging, sports injuries such as football and boxing, falls in which the head moves backward, physical abuse, or any other traumas.
A whiplash injury occurs when the muscles and ligaments of the neck extend severely out of their normal range of movement. After any trauma, it is important to notice any neck pain or physical symptoms you may be experiencing and to schedule an appointment to be treated by our Atlanta whiplash injury doctor.
In general, whiplash injury is not a severe condition. However, it may result in long-term side effects including neck pain and discomfort. Therefore, it is recommended to visit our Atlanta whiplash injury clinic to determine whether you have an injury or not.
How Does a Whiplash Injury Occur?
Whiplash after car accidents is the most common. The severity of the condition varies according to many factors including how the collision happens and its angle (2).
In most cases, the collision occurs from behind leading to the following 5 phases.
When the car is hit from behind, the seat is pushed against the back, which loads the spine with forces compressing it against the head.
The spine is C-shaped. When it is hit, it becomes S-shaped, which may damage the intervertebral discs, facet joints, and other structures in the neck.
The head goes backward, which may cause damages to the soft tissues located in the front of the neck. At the same time, the neck may extend backward, which makes things worse.
After that, the head goes forward rapidly.
Seatbelts prevent the body from moving. While the head is whipping forward, the neck flexes, which causes damage to the soft tissues located in the back of the neck.
The severity of the injury depends on the severity of the car crash. Some accidents may not cause severe injuries. However, other accidents may be worse, especially if the forces were absorbed by the seat, not by the exterior of the car. If you are experiencing pain, our Atlanta whiplash car accident treatment may be the solution for you.
What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?
Common whiplash symptoms include:
Neck pain - It can range from mild pain to tingling sensation or severe pain.
Less Common Symptoms are usually associated with chronic injuries when the patient ignores the condition.
Concentration and memory problems
Tinnitus or ringing noises in one or both ears
Anxiety and irritability
Chronic pain in the head, neck, shoulders, upper back, and arms
Symptoms can be complicated and hard to diagnose (3). Whiplash-Associated Disorders (WAD) are common too and may make the condition harder to diagnose (4). Also, it may affect the social life and lead to social isolation if the pain is constant. Our clinic offers the best Atlanta Whiplash Treatment to get back to your normal life quickly while avoiding any future complications.
When Should You See Your Doctor?
Immediately see a doctor after your Atlanta motor vehicle accident if you are experiencing any of the following:
Pain spreading to the arms or shoulders
You feel pain when you move your head
Your arms become numb or weak
Symptoms usually appear 24 hours or more after an accident. However, in some cases, symptoms may take longer to appear (within days) and can last for weeks if you ignore the condition. It is recommended to see our Atlanta whiplash injury doctor who can assess your condition and get you the proper treatment needed to start your recovery process.
How Is a Whiplash Injury Diagnosed?
Our doctor will take a full history from you. Before asking about the accident, a full medical background is gathered including any previous medical conditions, family history, medications, surgeries, and any other information.
After that, you will be asked about your accident in detail. The questions asked may include:
How were you injured?
Did you have pre-existing pain before your accident?
When did the symptoms appear? Did the symptoms start immediately after the accident or take hours or days?
Are there any physical indications of your pain (i.e. bruising)?
Where is your pain located? Can you describe how your pain feels (sharp or stabbing pain)? Is the pain constant? Does the pain come and go? Do you feel any pain in your shoulders, arms, or your upper back?
The answers you provide will determine how your Atlanta whiplash injury doctor will develop your treatment plan. It is important to provide your doctor will all the details of your injury, with honest answers, so that our team may best relieve you of your pain.
Physical Examination for Injuries
After collecting the full history, your Atlanta Whiplash Injury Doctor will physically examine you.
Here is how the physical examination may be done.
Inspection or Observation: The doctor will examine the patient’s body posture and neck to see if there are any abnormalities or misalignment.
Tenderness: The doctor will check the different areas of the neck to see where the neck is tender and/or tight.
Range of Motion: The doctor will assess the mobility of the neck in different directions to see the range of motion.
In addition, certain symptoms may suggest having an injured nerve. For example, tingling, radiation of the pain to the shoulders, arms, hands, or upper back, weakness, or abnormal pain may require further examination and may include:
Reflexes: Your doctor will use a rubber hammer to see whether the nerves in the neck are functioning properly or not. These nerves are responsible for sending signals to the arm muscles (biceps and triceps) and the forearm.
Muscle Strength: Certain tests are performed to see if the shoulders, hands, and arms are weaker than normal or not.
Sensation: Abnormal sensations in the arm and hand help to determine the segment of the spine that is causing the problem. (5)
Once your Atlanta whiplash injury doctor completes the physical examination, enough information will be gathered to develop a treatment plan or determine whether the patient needs additional tests.
Diagnostic Imaging for Injuries
If your doctor suspected that there is a neurological problem or that a fracture exists, certain diagnostic imaging will be done to assess the condition including:
X-ray: The x-ray shows the bones and helps doctors to see where the fracture is. Also, it is important to make sure that the injury is not associated with any other injuries or the pain is not due to other conditions such as arthritis.
A Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI Scan: An MRI scan shows soft tissues and bones. Regarding the bones, it is not as effective in showing them as x-rays. But, it is better to assess the damages of soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, or intervertebral discs.
A Computed Tomography or CT scan: It also shows the extent of soft tissue damages.
Bone Scan: If there are any tiny fractures, a bone scan can detect them.
Diffuse tensor imaging (DTI) or positron emission tomography (PET scan): They may be needed to assess if there are any brain damages. They localize, measure, and assess how severe the injury is to the brain and other body parts. (6, 7, 8)
Whiplash Treatments and Recovery
There is not enough evidence supporting certain treatment methods over the others. Our Atlanta whiplash treatment depends on many factors such as the unique situation of each patient, the severity of the symptoms, and the patient preferences.
Most injuries cause mild muscle strains and/or ligament sprains, which can heal at home within a few days or weeks by following a certain self-care regimen. However, severe injuries can last for months or become chronic.
Side effects and long-term prognosis vary from a patient to another and usually are associated with the severity of the condition.
How to Take Care of Your Whiplash Injury at Home?
For mild to moderate symptoms, certain home treatments, remedies, and tips can be applied, especially for pain relief, including:
Rest: It is recommended to stay active during injuries, if possible. However, you should rest completely in the first few days after the injury. If certain movements make the neck pain worse, avoid them until all the tissues heal properly.
Ice / Heat: Applying ice in the first few days after the injury is recommended to reduce pain and relieve neck swelling. The ice forces small blood vessels to contract and prevents the swelling from becoming worse. After a few days, ice and heat can be applied alternately.
Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medications: Many OTC medications are recommended for injuries including acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Acetaminophen relieves pain while NSAIDs prevents and reduces inflammation.
How Are Whiplash Injuries Treated?
If pain relief techniques fail or symptoms do not go away after a while, it is time to visit our Atlanta whiplash injury clinic.
Our Atlanta Whiplash Treatment may include the following:
Physical Therapy: At our Atlanta whiplash injury clinic, we develop treatment programs for patients according to their unique conditions. Our physical therapy partners will help you to improve your neck’s strength and range of motion. Physical therapy is used to relieve whiplash pain and stress on the spinal cord. (12)
Pain Medication: If OTC medications failed to manage the pain, other prescription medications such as opioids and muscle relaxants could be used under the supervision of your Atlanta whiplash injury Doctor. (13)
Injections: Injections can be used to target certain areas. For example, cervical epidural steroid injections are used to reduce nerve compression and tissue inflammation due to disc herniation. Also, cervical facet joint injection relieves joint pain and trigger point injection improves irritated muscle bundle. (14, 15)
Psychotherapy: Some patients develop psychological problems after injuries such as depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Our Atlanta whiplash injury clinic team includes mental health professionals who can help you manage any psychological problems. If required, a medication prescription may be written for you.
Manual or Spinal Manipulation: Spinal manipulation consists of some stretches and exercises applied to the damaged areas. It depends on how tight the neck muscles are. Our Atlanta whiplash treatment plan may include chiropractors to relieve the most sensitive areas, fasten the healing process, and increase the range of motion.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles in certain areas of the body according to the condition. It is a pain-free process and may be effective in addressing your pain.
Massage Therapy: Massage therapy combined with physical therapy and spinal manipulation reduces pain. It soothes muscle tension and enhances blood flow to the muscles.
Radiofrequency Neurotomy: If the previous methods failed, radiofrequency neurotomy may be done. It inhibits the facet joint pain signals by creating lesions in certain nerves using heat. (16)
The treatments listed above can be effective in addressing your condition. However, any healthy changes to your lifestyle will help your neck to heal faster. You can eat healthy foods, rest more, use ergonomic pillows, keep your body in good posture, quit smoking, and stay active without putting stress on your neck. Our Atlanta whiplash injury doctor will inform you about certain lifestyle changes you can apply according to your condition and lifestyle.
The Prognosis of Whiplash Injuries
Most patients recover completely within 3 months. However, whiplash-associated disorders and symptoms may persist and become chronic.
Some risk factors are associated with longer recovery times including:
Severe pain during the injury: When the patient feels severe pain during the accident, it may be an indication of severe tissue damage.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This is a psychological disorder occurring usually when the patient thinks a lot about the accident. Your Atlanta whiplash injury doctor may advise you to avoid going to the accident site or driving to avoid depression and anxiety.
Old Age: Old patients usually have degenerative and pre-existing conditions such as arthritis, which make their injuries worse.
Females: Females have smaller neck structures and muscles than males, which makes them more vulnerable to injuries.
Sensitivity to Cold: Cold hyperalgesia, also known as sensitivity to cold can help your Atlanta whiplash injury doctor to estimate the long-term effects of injuries. People who are sensitive to cold may have longer recovery times.
What Is Quebec Task Force WAD Classification for Whiplash-Associated Disorders?
TheQuebec Task Force is about the proper diagnosis and treatment of whiplash-associated injuries. It is composed of 5 grades which are:
Grade 0: The patient does not have any neck pain and has no signs of whiplash.
Grade I: The patient’s neck is stiff, tender, and in pain but there are no physical signs of whiplash such as limited range of motion, swelling, or weakness.
Grade II: The patient complains about the same symptoms as Grade I in addition to physical signs of whiplash such as limited range of motion, neck swelling, and point tenderness.
Grade III: The patient complains about the same symptoms as Grade II and the doctor may find some neurological problems such as sensory problems or muscle weakness.
Grade IV: The patient has neck problems in addition to a fracture or dislocation.
Most patients are classified as Grade II. The Quebec Task Force classification is a good starting point to determine how to start diagnosing and treating your injury. However, this is just one of many classifications that doctors may use in developing your Atlanta whiplash treatment. (9, 10, 11)
FAQ about Whiplash Injuries
1. Should I wear a Cervical collar?
Some doctors may order their patients to wear a cervical collar to keep the neck immobile in the first few days/weeks after the injury. However, using a cervical collar for too long may hamper your recovery process since immobilization makes the neck muscles weaker, which may worsen the condition you are experiencing in your cervical spine.
2. Can whiplash cause neurological problems?
Yes, injuries can cause neurological problems. Two main types of neurological problems may occur:
Nerve Root Irritation: This results from direct pressure on nerves in cases of herniated discs.
Referred Pain: Common in rear-end car crash collisions. The source of pain is usually the damaged structures in the neck such as ligaments damage, facet joints damage, and disc injuries.
3. Can whiplash cause headaches?
Yes. Headaches are common. It is usually experienced on the first morning after the injury. The pain spreads from the neck to the back of the head and movements can make it worse. At home, heat can ease the pain while cold can worsen it. If the condition persists, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy can relieve the pain and radiofrequency ablation can provide long-term pain relief.
4. Can whiplash cause a concussion?
Yes, a concussion can occur due to the injury. Concussions are serious. You should visit our Atlanta whiplash injury clinic immediately if you feel you may have a concussion.
5. What exercises are recommended for whiplash injuries?
Certain exercises are recommended to relieve the pain and reduce tightness. Exercises may include:
Chin Tucks: To stretch neck muscles.
Side to Side Head Rotation and Side Bending: To increase neck mobility and reduce tightness.
Scapular Stabilization Exercise: To relieve neck pain (17).
Isometrics and Prone Cobra: To strengthen neck and upper back muscles.
The Corner Stretch: To stretch the chest and neck front muscles.
6. Can whiplash cause pain in the legs?
Yes, sometimes. When you are hit from behind, great forces are applied to the lower back, which may cause injuries to the vertebral column and its discs causing pain in the legs known as sciatica pain.
7. How can whiplash potentially impact my lifestyle and daily activities?
Injuries can have a great impact on your daily life depending on the body parts affected. Daily tasks like shopping can be difficult. Also, it may affect your social life and lead to psychological problems such as depression and social anxiety.
8. How do you know if you have whiplash?
Head and neck pain are the most common symptoms of injuries. Also, if you experience symptoms like fatigue, shoulder pain, lower back pain, or anxiety, it is recommended to visit our Atlanta whiplash injury clinic to assess your condition, especially if you had any accidents recently.
The Bottom Line
Schedule an appointment at our clinic if you are looking for the best Atlanta whiplash treatment. You can put your trust in our team. They have the proper expertise, knowledge, and compassion to provide you with all the care you need.